If you google “Little Social Burger” then you’ll find a few of the top burger hunters in London ranking it up on their Top 10 lists, with it also winning the #1 spot from burger master Daniel Young of Young & Foodish. I’m sure we all know how much I love burgers and it was high time I investigated the Little Social Burger for myself.
Little Social is a Parisian style bistro by Jason Atherton which is directly opposite his larger restaurant Pollen Street Social. Pollen Street Social itself ranks into the Michelin Restaurant guide and is often booked months in advanced, Little Social is a smaller, less formal (yet the decor is 10xs better in my opinion) little sister who’s booking isn’t so bad. We still had to book for a table on a Wednesday lunch time though!
The blogs and other foodie friends who have visited have all had raving reviews of the Little Social Burger and as I was perusing my way through them I realised that the bar had been set very high. These same bloggers and food critiques had many shared “top burgers” on their lists as mine, and so I had confidence in their tastes. Little Social is more up-class than any of my current top 5 burger joints; 3 of which are simply street vendors.
My friends and I had booked a table for 3 at 2:3opm on a Wednesday afternoon. It was the last table of the lunch time that you could book and final orders were at 2:45. The restaurant itself is small and intimate with a nice atmosphere. The waiting staff were absolutely top notch, the service exactly what I would expect from somewhere with such prestige. The menu had mouthwatering offerings and my friends and I were very tempted to order other things! However we came here on a mission. All three of us ordered the burger, one normal, two with added foie gras and one with the supplement of poutine.
The burgers came out and certainly looked the part. Not the biggest burgers we’ve encountered but certainly a decent size. The chips came in silver buckets. For an extra £12.50 (which could buy me a meal elsewhere) there was also a decent amount of foie gras on my burger. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have asked for that, however I’ve eaten a burger with foie gras before in another french restaurant in London (my person favourite in fact) and I think it really suits it. I thought if I’m going to go all out for London’s supposedly best burger, then why not?
The burger itself was hearty. I had to pick it up with both hands to get a bite out of it, the bite was substantial and meaty, and my mouth was covered in grease afterwards. My fingers too. In fact, there was fat dripping everywhere, from what I wasn’t sure. I’ve had my fair share of messy burgers, but this was the first one that doesn’t look like it’s going to be messy, and then it explodes in your mouth when you’ve let your guard down.
Now I’m not sure if you guys know about my ritual for assessing a burger. You see, when I first try out a new burger, I have a very precise way of eating/ dissecting it. this is how I decide how good it is. The method goes something along these lines.
- Take a bite or two of the whole thing. Eat it as it’s meant to be eaten.
- Cut out a piece or two with knives and forks. This creates a slightly different texture/ taste mix due to the cleaner cut of a knife vs your teeth.
- Cut a larger portion of burger, and dissect it. In this case it came out in various different parts of top bun, foie gras, cheese, bacon, beef patty, pickled gherkins, caramelised onion/ chutney stuff and bottom bun.
- Eat each of these components one at a time to be able to identify their individual taste value.
- Finish rest of burger in which ever way tasted the best. Often I finish by eating it normally and dissecting the last few bits again.
So what can I conclude from all of this?
The first bite was great. I had a meaty, cheesy, bacon-y explosion in my mouth with an unexpected amount of juice flying all over the place. There was stringy cheese literally dangling from my mouth and the burger and my eyes bulged out a little. I thought to myself “Damn right that’s a burger.” In fact, I have a vine of that first bite RIGHT HERE.
Now if only the rest of the burger held as much fun and promise as that first bite. You see, this is why I have such a complicated method of testing the burgers. To be a top burger you not only have to have an amazing first bite, you have to be just as good for the next bite all the way until the last bite. The Little Social Burger although opened up fantastically, did not manage to maintain that all the way through my testing.
Here are how the individual components measured up.
The brioche bun was perfect. It was the perfect size and it was not too sweet not too soft. The bottom bun did a lovely job of soaking up the juice/fat that was gushing out of my burger but it did not fall apart. 5/5
The foie gras was flavoursome, packed a punch and tasted exactly how I expected it to taste, giving an extra thrust of savoury goodness to my burger. But did it pack too much flavour I questioned. Did it drown out the fundamental point of having a beef patty? Did I instead find myself eating a foie gras burger with an added beef patty? Perhaps. Even if I discount that doubt, it was a little overcooked for my liking, very much fried on one side, flipped and fried so that the two sides had uneven textures and the overall thing came out just a tiny bit too tough. 3.5/5
The bacon and cheese did not come apart easily. In fact, I had to give up dissecting that one. Bonus points of the cheese for being able to be that gooey/sticky. I believe it was simple cheddar. The bacon was meant to be maple cured bacon and I’ve had various kinds of these before. I did not however felt it was particularly sweeter than normal bacon. It was however still very flavoursome and it had a thickness to it not all bacon provides. My friends agreed amongst each other it was the best part of the burger. 5/5
Which leads us to the actual meat patty. Oh dear. Aged Scottish beef, it was cooked pink in the middle. It was soft and tender, crumbled/melted almost as you ate it. Cooked perfectly. But where was the flavour? I for one could not find it. Instead, all the flavour came from the foie gras and bacon and cheese. The beef patty seemed almost added as a filler. 2/5
The pickled gherkins should have added an acidic kick, something many burger eaters know to be essential in creating the perfect burger blend. Something to contrast the meat, the sweet bacon or brioche bun. Something to add a different, crunchier texture. Even McDonalds knows this. So why did these pickles feel like a sad dupe? Too sweet, too thinly sliced. They added no contrast or extra texture. They didn’t even add much to the colour scheme. I am a huge fan of pickled gherkins, having sat with jars of the things as a snack before. I was sorely disappointed 1/5
The caramelised onion/chutney stuff was a surprise. I didn’t even realise it was there until I dissected my burger. My guess was that it was meant to add another level of sweetness to the burger and it was simply overwhelmed by the clash of other flavours. I tried eating it by itself and it was sweet, if not too mushy. I don’t think I would have noticed if they had forgotten to put it in though. 1/5.
Which gives us a total of 17.5/30 which frankly speaking is a little sad for the burger that so many claim to highly. I thought at least, maybe the ingredients weren’t so great eaten one by one, but as a whole they should go well together. And the thing is, the burger was delicious. But it was delicious for all the wrong reasons. The other ingredients outside of the beef patty are there to ENHANCE the beef patty and make it better. They’re not there to overwhelm and take away from it. Other considerations were although my mouth exploded with fat and grease and juice, the burger as I continued eating felt messy but not moist enough. You can’t substitute meat juices with fat.
I do have to say however that Little Social itself was a wonderful place to go, and I will go back. The staff service was impeccable, the seating and decor beautiful. The rest of the menu was more than tempting. Overall a great experience but I think Little Social will take #5 on my top lists, which is a great place to be, but still lower down that I was expecting!